Gov. Taft addresses state of Ohio

Kelly Mills

Taft’s State of the State Address discusses progress in past years

Governor Bob Taft speaks to Ohio senators and representatives at the State of the State Address yesterday afternoon. Taft addressed the importance of K-12 education reforms to prepare students for higher education. SAMANTHA RAINWATER | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

COLUMBUS – Gov. Bob Taft looked to the past to predict the future in yesterday’s State of the State Address.

Taft discussed progress Ohio has made in the past few years. Education was one of the key points of Taft’s address.

“We’ve focused on the most precious natural resource of all: our children,” Taft said. “We can, and we will do more.”

Taft spoke about the importance of better preparing students in high school for attending college and beginning jobs. New standards for students and teachers will improve the quality of Ohio’s educational system, he said.

When Taft took office in 1999, he said that fewer than half of students in the third and fourth grades could read well, but thanks to higher standards in the classroom coupled with 50,000 OhioReads volunteers, the number of students who can read well exceeds three quarters.

State funding for K-12 schools will help to eliminate a gap between poor and wealthy school districts.

“In the school year starting next fall, state aid to schools will exceed 1999 levels by $2.2 billion,” Taft said. “That’s an increase of 56 percent, more than three times the rate of inflation.”

Sen. Kimberly Zurz said after the address that it seems Taft is stretching too far into the past to gather these numbers to inflate his claims. She said the governor needs to put his focus more on students being prepared to make smooth transitions into college.

“I’m happy to see him focus on higher education,” she said. “But there’s obviously a missing link between high school seniors and college freshmen.”

Zurz said she would like to see all Ohio students take the ACT. She said by giving the test to all students, it would put them on the track to go to college. Measures like this would be a step toward what she sees Ohio’s goal should be, to “get them in (college), keep them in and get them the jobs.”

Rep. Kathleen Chandler said the standards for public schools need to be raised to meet Taft’s goal of preparing students for college and jobs.

“What we need to see is a good basic education going from preschool all the way through,” Chandler said. “Children will rise to our level of expectation. Children are enormously bright. I’m not sure we challenge them enough.”

Ohio House of Representatives Democrats held a press conference after the address to attack Taft’s lack of pointed goals. Ohio House Democratic Leader Rep. Joyce Beatty specifically addressed Taft not calling for ethics reform in the Ohio government. After this year’s scandals, she said this was necessary reform.

Beatty and Sen. C.J. Prentiss, the majority leader of the Ohio Senate, also said Taft did not adequately address the job shortages in Ohio, the concerns of middle-class families and ways to improve the education system.

Zurz said if Taft could properly address the public education system in Ohio, it would indirectly help address the lack of jobs and slow economy. One of the major problems with the higher education system is the prohibitive costs associated with it and rising tuition.

“To grow jobs, you must grow higher education,” she said. “To do that, you have to increase funding.”

Contact public affairs reporter Kelly Mills at [email protected].